1504.0 - Methodological News, Mar 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/06/2004   
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Analytical Services Branch have been working closely with the Institute of Child Health Research since June 2003, when we began a collaborative project to assist them with their analysis of data from the new Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS).

The WAACHS is a large scale survey of the health and well being of 5,289 Western Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The survey's primary objective is to identify the developmental and environmental factors that enable competency in Aboriginal children and young people. It is the first undertaking to gather comprehensive health, pyschosocial and educational information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in their families and communities.

Our initial work has focussed on assessing the internal consistency and reliability of a set of mental health questions collected on the survey. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is the principal method used in the WAACHS to assess the mental health of Indigenous children. The SDQ was developed by Robert Goodman and contains twenty five questions and aims to capture various aspects of mental health (emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and prosocial skills). For further detail on the question contents and scoring of the SDQ, see www.sdqinfo.com

While the SDQ has been well tested and is known to be valid for the general population, this is the first time it has been applied in an Indigenous context. A key aim of this work has been to test the validity of the SDQ measurement model in assessing mental health behaviours of Indigenous children. How reliably the 25 indicators measure mental health is assessed by running Structural Equation Models and assessing model fit using various diagnostic statistics. Overall, we concluded that the SDQ is quite reliable in measuring mental health in an Indigenous context.

Further analysis of Indigenous mental health outcomes has been done within the framework of multi-level modelling. Both two-level models (Indigenous children and carers) and three-level models (children, carers and census district) have been estimated. This allows us to determine the proportion of variation in mental health that is due to differences between carers (and later on locality). These models have been extended to explore variation in mental health explained by other characteristics such as age, gender, remoteness and physical health problems.

A second wave of analysis which builds on the work validating the SDQ and focuses on mental health and educational outcomes has just begun.

For more information, please contact John De Maio on 02 6252 6804, or Email: john.de.maio@abs.gov.au